Phyllis's story

‘I was asleep in bed on the sleep-out, and awoke when he creeped into my bed and placed his hand over my mouth, and was then on top of me. He lifted my nightwear and opened my legs and started to touch my vagina and then he inserted himself into me. When he had done whatever he set out to do, he removed himself from me and said “Wasn't that nice”. He removed his hand from my mouth and went back into the bedroom next door that he shared with his brothers. He was eight years older than I was.’

Phyllis was adopted into a Salvation Army family when she was very young. The Army was her life, and she did not mix much with people outside of this community.

She was 11 years old when Derek Klein raped her. The attack happened when Phyllis was staying at the home of the Klein family, also Salvation Army members, in Queensland’s central coast region. The Kleins were a very influential family in the Army, and employed a lot of the local corps in their business. Phyllis believes anyone making a complaint against them may have been threatened with losing their job.

Phyllis disclosed the assault to her aunt almost immediately. When her aunt informed her parents, they said it was a Salvation Army matter and referred it to the corps’ officers. These officers called in Klein’s parents, and they all agreed the matter was not to be spoken about. Phyllis’s parents told her she could not talk about it ‘as it was over and it was “fixed”’.

Not long after it happened, Phyllis also disclosed the abuse to a friend who was a few years older than her. The friend was in the Army too, and protected Phyllis from Klein. Phyllis would only attend Army youth activities away from home if her friend was also there - ‘in fact if I did not stay with her I would not go’. Even now, Phyllis finds it hard to stay away from home as she cannot be certain that she will be safe.

Many years later, Phyllis found out that her own brother had known she’d been abused, as did others in their community. ‘I was put on the pill not long after this assault ‘cause my period started ... And I know that went amongst the corps. My mother told somebody that told somebody. Everybody in the [regional] corps new that at 12 years of age I’m on the pill’. She knows Klein told one of his older brothers what he’d done because a few years later this man said he knew, and then propositioned her.

A short time after the abuse, Phyllis was taken on an interstate holiday by Klein’s parents. Her own parents saw nothing wrong with this. ‘That journey stayed in my mind as one of terror all the way to Sydney. I thought his father maybe like his son, or like father like son. What an impact on my life.’

In later years Phyllis began caring for her elderly mother, Joyce. They had never been particularly close, and Phyllis did not realise Joyce was being regularly visited by Klein. Joyce ‘saw nothing wrong with this but I was not at all impressed. He was still a horrible being in my eyes ... He would visit all the people of the corps who were friends of his parents. They were the only people who would have anything to do with him’. She would try to avoid him, but he once pinned her to the front door on his way out.

Phyllis wrote to an Army commissioner about accessing extra help for her mother, and in the letter also disclosed the sexual abuse by Klein. This lead to an internal investigation, and Phyllis met with Army officials. They suggested she make a police report, but she did not want to do this while Joyce was still alive. She was referred to a psychiatrist, who she saw three times, and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The investigators that had been appointed were very busy, and the process dragged out, so Phyllis dealt with the Director. She was finally awarded $45 000, and assumed this was the end of the matter.

However, she was contacted again a couple of years later, as another investigation was being undertaken to decide whether Klein should be stood down from the Army. This was further traumatising for Phyllis who did not understand why a victim should be involved in deciding about disciplinary measures. She made requests as to how the matter was handled, but the Salvation Army refused these, and told her not to speak with anyone about the matter. Eventually they let her have a lawyer, but did not offer any pastoral support. Phyllis engaged further legal support, and the Army decided to complete their investigation without her.

Phyllis is currently suing the Salvation Army for a large amount of money. Now that Joyce has passed away, she has also made a statement to police who have advised that they are not taking further action at this stage.

For a while, Phyllis participated in another Christian Church, but her recent interactions with the Army have led to the ‘destruction of my spiritual life’. All of her close friends are women, and for a long time she believed men were only interested in ‘one thing’.

‘Growing up in those days too, you see the Salvation Army guys were always looked upon as only having one vice. They didn’t smoke or drink, so sex was the thing. We always called them octopuses you know, because they had so many hands’.

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